When the Towers Fell: The Beginning of a New Era


When the towers fell fifteen years ago, the world changed. We couldn’t know then how profound the impact of those despicable terror attacks would be, or that all these years later the United States and the world would still be reeling from the consequences.

In the years leading up to 9-11, I was cynical about politics, to say the least. I recall the embassy bombings in Africa and the attack on the U.S.S. Cole,  and at the time, I wondered whether this was something our own leaders had cooked up to distract the country from the investigation into the Clinton administration, in some sort of “Wag the Dog” scheme.

But watching the Twin Towers crash down against the crisp September sky, I saw evidence that evil existed, and that it was here. Those attacks pierced our collective sense of imperviousness to attack, destroyed our security, and kept us awake at night. There was much fear during the first few weeks. I was on an empty flight from Nashville to Charlotte the day that commercial flight was opened up. There were about ten people on the entire plane. A middle-eastern man boarded ahead of me, and I sat directly behind him. Another pretty big guy sat across the isle from me, and we looked at each other and nodded without speaking. If that guy with a beard even coughed wrong, we’d have beaten him to death. After we landed, the poor guy turned around and smiled at us, and I saw that he had a shirt with “I love Jesus” written on it.

When President Bush gave a speech from the still smoking ground zero, I thought to myself, “Thank God Bush won, and not Al Gore.” For evil must be defeated; it cannot be ignored. When the President talked about a war on terror, that sounded right, a call to action backed by force and resolve.

I was watching a Gator football game with friends when the news broke that the bombing had begun in Afghanistan, and I cheered along with the rest of the bar to shots of entire mountainsides going up in flames. There was a certain fulfillment in seeing that, a kind of gratfication. People started chanting “USA!” I was probably one of them.

In March, when the United States began bombing Baghdad, I was riveted to my television, hypnotized and thrilled by the images of flames blossoming into the night sky. When the President landed on an aircraft carrier, I applauded the swift and just victory.

I was swept up in the drama and the patriotism like most of the country at the time. The yellow ribbons and bumper stickers. It cost me nothing.

A price too high

I was writing songs in Nashville at the time, but in my day job I was a salesman, and many of my long-time customers were soldiers with the 101st Airborne. I met wives who lost husbands, children who lost their daddies. The toll continued to rise over the years, and I met men who suffered from PTSD after multiple deployments. Folks I’d known for years saw marriages crumble around them.

Those men and women paid a price that I did not. For most of us, the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan were wars we watched on television. I had a friend of mine who came back from his second tour of Iraq, and he wasn’t the same man anymore. He’d gone in full of enthusiasm, and emerged with something taken from him. I never pried, because I wasn’t there, couldn’t share that particular bond with him. One night, though, after  a few too many drinks, he told me. He talked about the boredom, the fear, and the intense adrenaline rush of combat, how it’s almost addictive. And how he’d watched some of his brothers die in front of him, and how he couldn’t stop seeing it.


We civilians can’t know what that’s like. It’s easy to sit in your recliner and howl for war, when you aren’t the one enduring long deployments, IEDs, mortar attacks, and PTSD.

America’s longest war is still being fought, and our men and women who served the country are not being taken care of properly. It is shameful.

Consequences

The 9-11 attacks lead directly to the invasion of Iraq. Clearly, that war was a mistake of catastrophic magnitude. Without proper intelligence, we destroyed the infrastructure of a country that posed no significant or direct threat to the U.S. The Bush-Chenny administration went to war assuming that democracy was the solution, and that if we rebuilt what we destroyed, we would have a new ally in the middle-east, in the same way that after WW II Japan and West  Germany became allies.

Those assumptions ignored the history of sectarian violence in the region and the vast cultural differences between the East and the West. The fighting between Suni, Shia, Kurd, and Jew dates back more than a thousand years. What hubris to think for a moment that democracy and tanks could solve the underlying issues.

Now, with Iraq and the entire region destabilized, ISIS poses more of a threat than Al-Queada ever did. With systemic bombings and attacks throughout Europe, ISIS has proved to be resilient, resourceful, and deadly. They continue wage a war of terror on the west, escalating and improving their tactics.

Unfortunately, the United States played directly into the terrorist’s hands. Terrorists win by instilling fear. The west is convulsing with fear at the moment, with nationalist movements sweeping Europe, and Trump’s rising popularity in the U.S. Terrorist’s win when we loose our civil liberties and change our way of life. We are now openly debating unraveling the Constitution of the United States by doing things like banning Muslims, restricting free speech, and allowing survailance at unprecedented levels. Torture, drone strikes against American citizens, and impeding upon the freedom of religion are diametrically opposed to the values our country was founded upon. That’s what the terrorists want.

Furthermore, when we begin to use language that makes it seem that we are at war with an entire religion, the terrorists celebrate. This plays directly into the terror handbook. They want to convince recruits that the west is bent upon another crusade, because it makes recruiting easy.

The Next War

I pray that before we send our citizens to fight again, we will have all of the facts straight. I hope that my sons don’t fall in some far-off place because people like me cheered from bars. And I pray that when we go to war the next time, the reasons will be just and true.

I pray that history does not remember 9-11 as the beginning of the end for this great nation.



Defeating Radical Islam

  The west is at war with radical Islam, whether our politicians acknowledge it or not. The United States does not want this war, nor does Europe; but hoping to avoid a fight is a sure way to loose when the fight has already begun. The enemy is among us, and they want to kill us. We must accept that truth, understand the reasons for it, and execute a plan designed to defeat the enemy.

I happen to have Muslim friends, kind and good people who want nothing of any soort of war. Unfortunately, they are in it too, and on the front lines, for they must lead the fight to reclaim thier religion and wrest it from the hands of the radicals. Of the 1.6 billion Muslims in the world, based on PEW polls, roughly 10% are fundamentalist Islamists. That means worldwide, about 160 million people believe that killing those who leave the faith, stoning women, beheading people, and murdering in the name of religion are perfectly acceptable ideas. Ideas which originate in the Q’uran. 

If only 10% of those radicals are willing to become jihiadis, that leaves 16 million highly-motivated true believers willing to die tomorrow and take as many infadels with them as they can. This is a threat the west can no longer ignore or take lightly, because many of those jihadists already live here. 

In the wake of the worst terror attack in the U.S. since 9-11, coming on the heels of San Bernadino, Paris, and Brussels, the United States must accept the fact that radical, jihadist Islam is at war with us, whether we like it or not, and we must do whatever it takes to win. There is no single silver bullet, and the battleground is complex and evolving. 

Victory demands a multifaceted, nuanced approach. This war has been going on for over a thousand years, and it’s not going to end for decades. 

A Bit of History

The Islamic Caliphate captured  Jerusalem in 637; initially the Caliphate was tolerant of other religions, including Christians and Jews, but eventually became more conservative, expelling and executing those of other faiths. The current Islamic State models itself on the Caliphate. When the Godfrey and his knights took Jersualem in 1099 during the first Crusade, the fighting was bloody and both sides commited atrocities. The Crusades would go on for centuries, with Muslims and Christians battling for control of the Holy Land.

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The Ottomon Empire eventually took over from the Caliphate, and became a dominant world power. Constantinople was a center for global commerce for six hundred years. The empire, already in decline, sided with Germany during World War I, and following that defeat, the Allied Powers carved out a new nation… Turkey. There was a power vacuum in the Middle East left by the empire, as the British and French took the lead in influencing politcs in the region.  The French   controlled Syria and Lebanon, and the British held Palestine and Iraq.  Arabia and Yemen emerged. Kuwait, Bahrain and Qatar were British Protectorates.

Following World War II,  with France and England reeling from the effects of the war, the mideast fought for independance from a long era of  European colonialism.  Israel was recognized as a nation in 1949 on lands that Palestine claimed, fomenting anger among the  Muslim populations throughout the region. More than once, Israel was attacked by its neigbors.

Demand for oil powered the economies of the entire Middle East, with Saudi Arabia, Iraq, and Iran building powerful armies and growing wealthy. The Soviet Union and Untited states fought proxy wars, propped up dictators, and vied for influence in the region in order to keep the oil flowing.

The U.S. toppled Sadam, and pulled out without a clear plan, leaving the country vulnerable to corruption and invasion. ISIS swept through Syria and is now in Iraq.  They now sposor terror throughout the world, and claimed the last two mass shootings here in the United States.

 Boko Haram, ISIS, the Taliban, Al Queda, Hezbollah, the Muslim Brotherhood and organiztions like them are growing more sophisticated and dangerous, recruiting via social media and communicating through encrypted emails, building sleeper cells and striking across thousands of miles. They prey upon the young, making attactive the idea of killing in the name of God. They have declared war on everyone who doesn’t agreee with them, longing for the apocalypse, and willing to die to obtain that goal.

So how do we stop the enemy?

Burst the Liberal Bubble

While liberals want peace and harmnony, (admirable goals), we tend to ignore the fact that evil exists, and the only way to defeat it is to fight. Not with mere words and calls for unity, but with bombs and blade and resolve. Religion is coming for us at the tip of a spear.

Liberals don’t want to offend, are reluctant to appear to hate, and will twist themselves into mental and emotional knots to avoid the truth because they don’t really understand it. The idea that humans are willing to die for religion seems a bit uneral to them, disconntected from their reality, and they cling to the belief that all religions are basically benign and created equal.  Radical Jihadist  Islam is inherently violent, and all the rainbows and unicorns in the world won’t change that. Wake up, people!

Cut off the money

The Saudis fund terror around the globe. Most of the 9-11 attackers were Saudi men, and ISIS gets  the bulk of its money from various back channels that end with the Kingdom. In the United States, and around the world, the Saudis fund many Mosques which subscribe to the brand of Sunni Wahhabism shared by ISIS. This is an austere interpetation of the Koran, a literal one.  According to their beliefs,  only those who folllow Whhabi are chosen. Others, including Muslims, are defiers of god. They are to be hated and persecuted. 

Poll  after poll shows that the citizens of Saudi Arabia hold deep hatred for the United States. They are not allies, not really. We buy oil from the Saudis because we must, and we fear thier power. OPEC controls oil prices, and if prices spike, our ecnomoy goes into free-fall.

The United States must become energy independant. This means renewable energy like solar, wind and geothermal. It means building more nuclear plants, and investing heavily in research for fusion, which is the holy grail of energy. Essentially limitless, safe, and inexpensive energy. 

This is going to take decades, but it is within our power. Only by becoming energy independant can we stop the Saudi influence on our economy and the way the Kingdom spreads its particular branch of Islam around the world. Without the money, it’s power will wane.

Increased domestic survailance

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It is a terrible truth that a free society is vulnerable to attacks, and that the only way to prevent more loss of life is by giving up some of our liberty. This is not to say that we need an authoritarian government, only that there is a balance between our civil liberties, constitutional rights, and national security. We need to be vigilant, and some of that is going to be invasive. The NSA will be monitioring our phones and internet activity as the war ramps up, more so than they already do. More street cameras, more drones over our soil. It is scary. Big Brother is watching, and he’s going to keep doing it. There is no other way.

Judges will need more lattitude to issue wire taps and search warrants. The FBI will have to step up its intellegence gathering abilities, utilizing moles and undercover operations in the way that the CIA did during the cold war. Mosques which preach radicalization must be monitored. Immigrants with leanings toward Jihad must be deported. Citizens who fund terror groups must be put in federal prison.

Rather than open our borders to an influx of refugees, the U.S. needs to find a solution within the Middle East, and do it quickly. The innocents fleeing ISIS deserve a place to live in peace. As terrible as it is, that doesn’t mean that place is the United States. Germany is reeling from the influx of refugees, as are most other European countries. 

Stopping ISIS

The immediate threat is ISIS. The United States must form an international coalition which includes Russia and Iran, along with the EU.  This would entail boots on the ground, and would only be a temporary solution, because eventually power would haave to revert back to Syria and Iraq. The swiftest solution, although not pretty, would be to essentially give Putin the ability to do what must be done in Syria, going in with tanks and infantry, then rebuilding in the aftermath but maintaning a presence and influence in country. The U.S. is going to have to do the same thing in Iraq. 

There will be collateral damage, and we’ ve got to be ready for it. We won’t be able to leave for decades. There will be a constant insurgency, and American lives will be lost. Eventually, Iraq should be divided into separate autonomous states, with the Sunnis, Kurds, and Shia each with thier own nations. This would drastically cut down on the sectarian fighting.

Reformation and Enlightenment

Since the vast majority of Muslims are peaceful and do not  subscribe to the violent beliefs of the Jihadists, they must take their religion back and propel it from the dark ages into the 21st century. Christianity went through its own evil period with the Inquisition, but eventually this gave way to the enlightenment.

The only way this can happen with Islam is for Muslims to act; the west needs to empower them. This means funding alternate mosques and schools. It means pouring money into regions where the only schools are Maderas for boys who are taught to hate before they are taught to read.

Within the United States, we must not condemn all Muslims. This is exactly what the terrorists want, an over reaction which only breeds more hate. However, while our next President must make it clear that we are not at war with Islam, he or she must acknowlege that we are at war with Radical Jihadist Islam, and find a way to unify the country, including Muslims rather than excluding them. We need them to be in this fight, with us, rather than against us, for they are us.

  


American Sniper: Reivew and Controversy

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I read Chris Kyle’s autobiography last year, and when I learned that the book was going to be turned into a movie, I was thrilled and a bit skeptical. Clint Eastwood has delivered a movie that exceeded my expectations, a war film that deserves a place beside Saving Private Ryan and Apocalypse, Now. I hope it wins a truck-load of awards.

The pacing is excellent, juxtaposing scenes stateside with the war in Iraq. Bradley Cooper is utterly convincing in this role as the most lethal sniper in U.S. history. His performance is nuanced and heart breaking. The battle scenes are riveting. As the credits rolled, the entire crowded theater remained in their seats. No matter his flaws, Chris Kyle is an American hero, and this film is a great tribute to him and the brave men and women who risk their lives everyday defending our freedom.

Chris Kyle’s heart comes across better in the film than it did in the book, the inner conflict between duty and family, and the most emotional scenes of the movie revolve around Kyle’s inner struggle, whether it’s making an agonizing call on the battle field or a phone call to his wife.

There has been a surprising amount of controversy surrounding this film. A few celebrities have condemned it, Michael Moore publicly slamming the film. People have called the movie racist. Kyle experienced war in a way most men never do. He experienced savagery and witnessed atrocities that shaped his outlook on his enemies, people who were actively trying to kill him. He lost close friends in combat. The movie does not depict all Iraqis in a bad light; one of the most intense scenes in the movie does quite the opposite. The fact is, insurgents did melt into the civilian population, using IEDs and snipers to kill American soldiers. The notion that the film rewrites history is ludicrous.

The film is not political; it’s about what happened to the soldiers who were there and how the war stayed with them even when they were home. Whether or not the war in Iraq was justified or not doesn’t matter to the men and women who served in that fight. They carry the scars either way. The film doesn’t go into the justification for the war, doesn’t condone or glorify it. The fact is, war is ugly and mean and bloody and it’s always been that way.

Kyle prioritized his life thus: God, Family, Country. His ability to kill without remorse is chilling to soft civilians like me. I write about heroes, but I’m far from actually being one. But he’ s the guy you want at the gates when the city is under siege, standing on the wall, fighting back.

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I plan on rereading the book, and I’m sure I’ll watch the movie again before it leaves theaters. If you plan on seeing only one movie this year, see this one!

http://www.amazon.com/Sean-T.-Smith/e/B00IKHPGEK

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